Kovalchuk, 40, has not played at all since his playoff run with Avangard Omsk in 2020-21 that ended in a Gagarin Cup championship. Before that short stint in Omsk, Kovalchuk had not been a fixture in the KHL since 2017-18, the final year of his time in the KHL that began with his highly controversial exit from the New Jersey Devils.
The 2001 first-round pick returned to the KHL in 2020-21 after two seasons in the NHL split between three teams: the Los Angeles Kings, Montreal Canadiens, and Washington Capitals. That raised the overall total of NHL franchises he’s played for to five, adding on the Devils and Atlanta Thrashers, teams he spent the bulk of his career weith.
Now, Kovalchuk will represent Spartak, a team that currently sits at the top of the KHL’s Western Conference. They rank first in the KHL in goals scored by a wide margin, so their addition of Kovalchuk is not one based on desperation to add offensive reinforcements. Instead, Kovalchuk will join an already-talented side that includes star Nikolay Goldobin, a former NHLer who currently has 53 points in just 40 KHL games.
While there is surely no possibility that this signing will result in Kovalchuk looking to once again return to North American pro hockey, this contract does extend the playing career of a forward who was once one of the NHL’s most electric offensive talents.